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New Round Of Iran Sanctions Satisfy Few

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New Round Of Iran Sanctions Satisfy Few

Middle East

New Round Of Iran Sanctions Satisfy Few

New Round Of Iran Sanctions Satisfy Few

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  • Transcript


Celso Amorium, foreign minister of Brazil
Philip J. Crowley, assistant secretary of state
Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies, American Enterprise Institute

The U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on Iran after months of diplomatic negotiations over the future of its nuclear program. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the sanctions. Critics are split. Some call for harsher penalties on Iran, others say sanctions undermine diplomacy.


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

After many months of diplomatic negotiations, the United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions on Iran yesterday. They're intended to put pressure on Tehran to put the brakes on its nuclear ambitions.

Today, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, dismissed those sanctions as annoying flies and threatening to reconsider Iran's relations with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the measures as the toughest yet and as an unmistakable message. Yet the vote was not unanimous in the Security Council. Lebanon abstained, and both Brazil and Turkey voted no, arguing that sanctions undermine the prospects of diplomacy. Other critics, though, say the sanctions are nowhere near tough enough.

Later in this hour, we'll talk with Boeing's chief test pilot about a new movie on the development of the 787. But first, the new sanctions on Iran. Do they go too far or not far enough? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later we'll hear from State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley and from Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, but we begin with Brazil's foreign minister, Celso Amorim, who joins us now on the phone from his office in Sao Paulo, and nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today, sir.

Minister CELSO AMORIM (Minister of External Relations, Brazil): Well, it's a pleasure for me. My office is in Brasilia.

CONAN: In Brasilia, excuse me. I apologize. Brazil opposed the sanctions yesterday. Why?

Minister AMORIM: Well, we opposed the sanctions first because of the reason that you already said, that we don't believe sanctions will help. They will only probably help the more radical sections in Iran. So it will make it harder for negotiations to take place.

But also, and this is very important, because Brazil and Turkey extracted from Iran, concessions that were being asked since October, when some of the Western countries proposed a deal, a swap of light enriched uranium for fuel for their research reactor.

And I think when we went with President Lula and also Prime Minister Erdogan to Iran, nobody believed that we would extract these concessions. I think most people were surprised that we were able to extract. And then I think they could not reshape their minds to the new situation.

So we thought it was really a missed opportunity.

CONAN: So you thought that essentially the United States and the European countries could not take yes for an answer?

Minister AMORIM: Well, it's not myself who said that. It's the former atomic agency chief and Nobel Prize ElBaradei. So I agree with him.

CONAN: At the same time, I think it was the day after the deal was struck there in Tehran with President Lula Da Silva and the president of Turkey, as well, I think it was one day later when the United States announced that they had come to an agreement, on the Security Council, on a new round of sanctions. Do you feel as if the United States undermined your efforts?

Minister AMORIM: Well, I prefer to avoid expressions that would just show any kind of ill feeling or resentment, because I don't have that. Actually, we have very good relations with the United States. I myself have very good relations with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

But we certainly disagreed on this issue, and we certainly had a different view, and we actually acted in good faith and with a deep belief that we were helping to have the deal that was not intended by Brazil or Turkey.

We were instrumentalizing the deal that was conceived by the Western countries and with the help of the atomic agency.

CONAN: It was the deal, though, that was conceived last October, and the facts had changed since last October, and the Iranians had processed a lot more uranium.

Minister AMORIM: Well, yes, indeed facts have changed, but we have maintained contacts at the very high level, higher level than my own, and in these contexts, including in written form the deal as proposed in October was still pointed out as an opportunity, an opportunity that would still be there.

The main criticism had to do at that time, two or three weeks before our agreement, our declaration was agreed, the main doubts were about the conditions that Iran was imposing.

These had to do with the place of exchange, the concept of simultaneity, several (unintelligible) quantity of uranium. All these difficulties were removed by our efforts. So we were disappointed that, as you said, we could not take - the proponents of the sanctions could not take yes for an answer.

This is even more surprising because if you see the reply that was given to the atomic agency by the same countries that were proposing the sanctions, the reply does not reject the deal. But they didn't allow even time for Iran to react to their reply.

I don't know if Iran would react in a positive way, it is a guess now, but I read actually also today or yesterday a rather mild reaction of the Iran's director for atomic energy.

So I don't know. I mean, you make a comment, and before you have time to have the reply, sanctions. I don't think this will be that's not a good omen. But let us hope that Iranian leaders will react as mildly as we hope, as it's possible, and then let us see what happens. But certainly, we have missed time, and we have missed an opportunity.

CONAN: Is the deal still on, as far as you know?

Minister AMORIM: Well, as far as we know, yes, but I don't know what will be the disposition of Iran, to be quite honest. I mean, we negotiated that very hard. Of course, we didn't have the mandate of anyone to say yes or no.

But we, Turkey and Brazil, were firmly believing that if we had a deal that nobody thought was possible to obtain, that that would have an effect of this sanction process and that we avoid sanctions now.

Since the sanctions came, now I think we came to the end of a stage. I don't know what the next stage will be. I mean, very honestly, I cannot tell you at this moment.

CONAN: I have to say there are some, and I'm sure you've heard this criticism, too, who say that Brazil and Turkey, to quote the editorial in today's New York Times, allowed themselves to be played by the Iranians.

Minister AMORIM: Well, I don't think so. We the Iranian government was faithful to what it promised to us. It promised to a write a letter to the atomic agency, which was also a requirement by the West. It did just one week after.

As foreseen in our declaration, we don't have any reason to suppose, based on our discussions, that they would not comply with that.

But anyway, the agreement was a very objective and quantifiable agreement. So Iran sent (unintelligible)and you to abroad, yes or no? Does it send it to Turkey, yes or no? Does it send it without waiting to receive the fuel, yes or no? So there is nothing subjective there. So it's not a judgment of intentions. It would be a judgment of fact.

So I don't think why we would risk much waiting one or two months and see what's happening in the technical (unintelligible). Now, you know, I hope it's not like that. I don't want to sound pessimistic. But all likelihood that even Iran goes back to the negotiating table, this will take much longer.

And of course, in that case, all the concerns that were expressed by several, including the United States, that Iran will continue to produce uranium, I'm not justifying that, but it's a fact, will probably these concerns will be increased instead of diminished. So I think it was really a bad move.

CONAN: Under the agreement that was negotiated with Iran by Brazil and Turkey, would Iran have been required to stop processing uranium?

Minister AMORIM: No. It didn't because it was our agreement was strictly based on what the atomic agency, inspired by the United States, Russia, France and others, proposed to them six months ago, you know, in October last year, a little more than six months ago.

It was precisely because the objective of this agreement was to build confidence. We recognized that there were other problems, and these problems had to be addressed, but precisely, they had to be addressed once confidence was built.

And this was precisely the sense of the messages, including written messages, that were received from the highest circles.

CONAN: Let's get a caller in on the conversation. Our guest is Celso Amorim, the foreign minister of Brazil. Jose(ph) is on the line, calling from Phoenix.

JOSE (Caller): Hi, thank you for taking my call. I just want to ask Mr. Prime Minister, (unintelligible) really what about diplomacy, or it's more in a stage? Are there really what about, like, the fact that maybe Brazil is selling technology, such as military technology to Iran. I'm sorry...

Minister AMORIM: Oh, I think this is out of the question because we didn't make any agreement on defense, on military technology or anything like that. Actually, it's some of the permanent members of the Security Council who voted yes for the sanctions who are selling weapons to Iran, not Brazil.

CONAN: And the foreign minister's talking about Russia, which is an agreement to sell...

Minister AMORIM: Oh, I don't you are saying Russia. I'm not saying anything.

CONAN: Well, they do have an agreement to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.

Minister AMORIM: It is a fact that permanent members of the Security Council ensured exemptions, so it was reported by the press, at least. I mean, I'm relying on the press. I don't have any inside information on that, that some exemptions were awarded, including in relation to the unilateral sanctions by the United States in order to have the support.

I don't think honestly, you get the policy. You are just making Iran more dependent on some countries instead of you are affecting the Iranian people to some extent, but more than anything else, you are making Iran more dependent on the countries for whom (unintelligible) exemptions are being offered. That's what you achieved.

CONAN: Foreign minister, we just have a minute or so left with you, but I wanted your estimation of where diplomacy goes next. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said yesterday that she hopes that Brazil and Turkey will continue to be points of contact with Iran.

Minister AMORIM: Well, I am very glad that she expresses these hopes, because it shows that she believes in our good intentions. But to be quite honest and frank with you, at this precise moment, I don't know what we could do.

Maybe in a week or so or in one month or so we will have a better view. But I think in any case, this move now made it more difficult to negotiate with Iran.

CONAN: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

Minister AMORIM: Thank you.

CONAN: Foreign Minister of Brazil, Celso Amorim. We reached him by phone from his office in Brasilia. We're talking about the latest round of sanctions against Iran that were approved by the United Nations Security Council yesterday. Coming up next, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State P.J. Crowley will join us.

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

Yesterday, the Security Council of the United Nations voted new sanctions against Iran, the fourth set of sanctions to be imposed on Tehran in an attempt to block its nuclear ambitions. These particular sanctions target the Revolutionary Guard, which is in control of this program.

We just spoke a moment ago with Celso Amorim, the foreign minister of Brazil, one of the two countries that voted no on the sanctions yesterday. Joining us now, is the assistant secretary of state, Phillip Crowley, and he's with us from his office in Washington. Nice to have you with us today.

Mr. PHILIP J. CROWLEY (Assistant Secretary, State Department): Thank you, Neal.

CONAN: And the goal, of course, is not to impose sanctions on Iran. The goal, of course, is to stop Iran's nuclear program. How do these sanctions contribute to that idea?

Mr. CROWLEY: Well, we are worried about Iran's ongoing noncompliance with its international obligations and in particular its ongoing enrichment of uranium.

Foreign Minister Amorim is right that, you know, there was a deal put on the table last October, but what concerned the United States was that even before the leaders of Brazil and Turkey went to Tehran, Iran made clear that regardless of any deal with what's called the Tehran Research Reactor, or TRR, that Iran would continue to enrich uranium in violation of a number of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

So we have a difference, a fundamental difference with Turkey and Brazil over, you know, timing and tactics, and we felt that at this stage, we needed to have a strong resolution that allows the international community to act to restrict Iran's nuclear programs, its proliferation programs, and, in essence, raise the cost of doing business as usual for Iran.

CONAN: And is it a strong message when two members of the Security Council vote no?

Mr. CROWLEY: Well, I don't think that Iran should take any comfort on this because Brazil has, for example, made clear that, notwithstanding its no vote, it will in fact enforce the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, passed yesterday.

This is going to raise the cost to Iran, and the sanctions are focused on those entities that support the government policy and support its pursuit of nuclear capability and, we fear, a military capability.

It will be centered on what's called the IRGC, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, that's playing an increasingly important role in Iran, and we think that we can send a clear message to the government, raise its costs of its ongoing activities.

We have no interest in shutting down Iran. We have no interest in adding to the misery of the Iranian people, but if this is done right, hopefully Iran will understand that there is no self-interest or no future in this particular avenue, and change course.

There's no guarantee that Iran will, but we have confidence that the international community will aggressive implement what was passed yesterday.

CONAN: The this is one step in a process but the fourth round of sanctions, and there are a lot of people saying that this is not the crippling sanctions that President Obama once said were necessary to convince Iran to change course.

Mr. CROWLEY: Well, this is one tool. I think what happens now, you'll see in the coming days and weeks, further actions that can be taken given the framework of Resolution 1929. There are national actions that we the United States can take, and there's legislation currently pending, you know, before Congress, you know, so that we can put additional unilateral pressure on Iran.

And there are other countries around the world, particularly in Europe, who have much more commercial contact with Iran. The EU is going to take further steps that will inhibit, you know, businesses that are related to Iran's weapons programs, its nuclear program, from being able to get the kind of international financing, insurance or other things that allows these projects to go forward.

So we are very confident that this is going to have an impact on Iran, going forward.

CONAN: We mentioned earlier there's an exception that allows Russia to go ahead with its sale of S300 anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, and news today from the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that Russia is in discussion with Iranian partners on possible new nuclear plants.

Mr. CROWLEY: Well, I think, first of all, there are, you know, significant restrictions on armaments, including convention weapons in this sanctions regime. It's based on a U.N. registry that does not include the S300 missiles.

That's actually a deal that was done between Russia and Iran several years ago. We are pleased that up until now, despite an actual valid contract, Russia has shown restraint and not delivered those missiles.

And there are some, you know, suggestions out of Russia that this is something that they'll continue, you know, to hold. We think that's the responsible position at this point.

CONAN: Let's get a caller in on the conversation. This is Anna(ph), Anna with us from Nelsonville, Ohio.

ANNA (Caller): Yeah, hi. Mr. Crowley, one website I go to all the time, and I encourage people, it's a former CIA analyst. He worked in the Bush administration, Flynt Leverett's website, The Race for Iran.

And, you know, most of are aware of this. The U.S. military and the mainstream media hasn't even counted the dead in Iraq, and here we are going for sanctions against Iran based on unsubstantiated and inflammatory claims.

Iran has the right to enrich uranium under the non-proliferation treaty that they signed and Israel continues to refuse to sign. And the IAEA has not come out and said that there's any hard evidence that backs up saying that they are enriching beyond the legal level that they are able to.

So what are these sanctions about?

Mr. CROWLEY: Well, I just beg to disagree on a number of things. You know, first of all, there are a number of U.N. Security Council resolutions that demanded that Iran cease enriching uranium. And while it has a right to a civilian nuclear program, the fact is, Iran is the only signatory of the non-proliferation treaty that has yet to satisfy the IAEA that in fact its program is for peaceful, civilian purposes.

Last year, we discovered a secret facility in Qom, in Iran, and there's no civilian purpose for that facility. Its only purpose would have to be some sort of military application.

Iran itself has said it's going to build more of these facilities. Iran itself has said that it's going to continue to enrich uranium in contravention of its international obligations.

So we continue to, you know, to state clearly: Iran does, in fact, have rights; but it also have responsibilities. And we are in this place specifically because Iran has failed to meet the test and convince the international community that its current activities are, in fact, peaceful.

CONAN: You mentioned the legislation pending in the U.S. Congress. The U.S. will impose additional unilateral sanctions. You also mentioned European countries could be doing something along the same lines. Beyond that, what's the next step? Will you speak to Iran? Is there negotiations in prospect?

Mr. CROWLEY: Well, one of the I mean, we are still open to diplomacy. Perhaps one of those differences that we have with Foreign Minister Amorim, is we don't see what's called the diplomatic track and what we call the pressure track as being mutually exclusive. We think that the sanctions passed yesterday will send a clear message to Iran, and we think we'll impose some costs on Iran.

We are still open to engagement. We're open to diplomacy. But this is ultimately not about Brazil or Turkey. This is about Iran's failure, you know, for the past year, to constructively come forward, you know, with a clear offer of engagement and has failed to do so.

We've had one meeting with Iran, on October 1st of last year. We proposed the Tehran Research Reactor deal as a confidence-building measure. It took Iran nine months to even respond to that offer of assistance. But since that time, because it continued to enrich uranium, the value of that arrangement, the value of that deal, was reduced.

The intention of our TRR proposal was to remove for a period of time Iran's ability to have a breakout capability. But since it has continued to enrich, basically doubled the amount of enriched uranium so that in essence, what Iran is trying to do is have its cake and eat it, too, that it would continue to have a stock of uranium while feeding some to some international observation. We just didn't think that was a good deal at this time.

CONAN: And if Iran continues what many regard as playing for time and refuses to accept the international sanctions, what next? Where does this go?

Mr. CROWLEY: Well, I think at the immediate step, we are going to aggressively implement this resolution, and we think the international community will do that. We have some experience with this.

Last year, we did the same thing with North Korea, and the international community has responded. If we stay united, respond as we have, we think that Iran will pay a price for this.

I mean, we know what Iran should do. It should come to the table and negotiate in good faith. We can't say at this point what Iran will do. All we can say is that Iran will pay an increasing price for its isolation and its noncompliance with its international obligations.

CONAN: P.J. Crowley, thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate it.

Mr. CROWLEY: Thanks, Neal.

CONAN: Philip J. Crowley is an assistant secretary of state, and he joined us by phone from his office at the State Department here in Washington, D.C.

Joining us now is Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, also in Washington, with us from their studios at AEI. Nice to have you back on the program.

Ms. DANIELLE PLETKA (Vice President for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute): Thanks for having me.

CONAN: And do these sanctions contribute to the goal of stopping Iran's nuclear program?

Ms. PLETKA: Well, the sanctions contribute to that goal. They moved the ball forward. The real question is: Do they move forward as quickly and as aggressively as necessary in light of the advancements that have been made in the Iranian nuclear program? And I think the answer to that, unfortunately - and I think, frankly, P.J. alluded that - is no. They're not enough, in light of the challenge that's posed by Iran.

CONAN: And they were difficult to negotiate. It took months of diplomacy to get the Russians and the Chinese, in particular, to sign on.

Ms. PLETKA: Well, it not only took months of diplomacy, it took an enormous number of concessions that were made - not just the ones on the S-300 that you mentioned earlier, which are really significant gap, but concessions to the Chinese, regional concessions to the Russians - you know, on countries of interest to them, missile defense in Poland and other things that they demanded from us. And I'm afraid that for the concessions that we had to give, we really haven't, unfortunately, gotten enough out of this to be able to move forward.

CONAN: And are you concerned that, on the one hand, the Russians do vote for this resolution, they voted no, it wouldn't have gone through. They're a permanent member. They have a veto in the Security Council. On the one hand, they do that. There was also a security meeting with Russia and Turkey and Iran last week and, as we mentioned, Foreign Minister Lavrov talking today about the new nuclear reactors.

Ms. PLETKA: They've been talking for some time about intensive nuclear cooperation. They've been talking about, in fact, a new partnership, a nuclear partnership between Russia and Iran. And that goes to the Russians really trying to play both sides. And the problem with that is not that it gives a significant edge to the Iranians and their nuclear program. It certainly helps them, but it's not decisive. The real problem is it sends a message about the decisiveness of the international community. We have a resolution that did not pass unanimously. The previous resolutions have, except for one abstention, passed unanimously. I think that it is reasonable for the Iranians to assume that they have broken the back of international consensus on hostility towards their nuclear weapons program.

CONAN: Do you think, as The New York Times suggested today, that Brazil and Turkey got played by the Iranians?

Ms. PLETKA: I think Brazil and Turkey did get played by the Iranians. I think the Iranians certainly see it that way. If you read the Iranian press, that's basically how they're describing it. They had two major countries, two countries sitting on the United Nations Security Council, including one that is a NATO ally of the United States, actually becoming advocates for their position in a confrontation with the international community. That's a victory for Iran, not for Brazil or Turkey.

CONAN: We're talking about the new round of sanctions applied yesterday on Iran by the U.N. Security Council.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

And let's get Larry on the line, Larry calling us from Sheridan in Oregon.

LARRY (Caller): Yes. Thanks for taking my call. Just wondering if we can cite any examples of when sanctions have actually worked, and at what point do you say resolution upon resolution upon resolution - you know, we're not getting anywhere. It's all talk.

CONAN: We remember, of course, the unhappy history of sanctions against Iraq, Danielle Pletka.

Ms. PLETKA: Oh, I can remember lots more unhappy sanctions histories. And, you know, sanctions are a very, very unsatisfying tool. I think Thomas Jefferson, one of the first American statesmen to refer to sanctions as being, you know, the middle ground between diplomacy and war. And unfortunately, that's really what they are. They don't deliver enormously well. We can cite the example of Libya and it's downing of Pan-Am 103 as an instance where I think sanctions did have some impact.

But no. What sanctions can do, if they are decisive, if they are effective - and I don't think these ones are - is that they can potentially bring a country to the table willing to negotiate seriously. And that caveat seriously is important. What they can do is that they can cause debate inside that government, inside the government of Iran about the cost that is being paid by the country for the pursuit of this program. Will sanctions cause the government of the Islamic Republic to turn around and say, you know, guys, this really just wasn't a great idea, let's give it up? Absolutely not.

CONAN: Larry, thanks for the call. When - some people suggest the crippling sanctions that President Obama once talked about would have to include refined petroleum products delivered to Iran - Iran, of course, a major oil producer, but lacks the refining capability to produce some of the products it would need for its economy.

Ms. PLETKA: That was part of the original draft of this resolution that passed this week, was some additional sanctions on Iran's energy sector, which is a gaping hole in this resolution. Iran derives 85 percent of its foreign exchange earnings from petroleum sales. Yes, it imports 40 percent of its refined product, but that is really at the heart of the Iranian economic system, and it is certainly a way to focus their attention.

I do just want to bring you back, though, because I do think that there's one piece of this that's important to understand, that Minister Amorim, the Brazilian foreign minister, alluded to. He rightly said: No one told us that the deal that was offered to the Iranians last year was off the table. And I think he was absolutely right. The Iranians were offered a deal by - whereby they could put their 1,200 kilograms of enriched uranium, and they could make a deal with the international community.

They now have twice that much. But nobody told the Iranians that if they chose not to take the deal, it would be off the table. And I think that that's a bad message that was sent by the international community and, by the way, reiterated by the president of the United States. That's what set us up for this in the first place.

CONAN: Let's get Clark(ph) on the line, Clark from Waynesboro in Virginia.

CLARK: Yes. Hello.


CLARK: I was thinking the - if you don't have anything at the end of it, Iran really won't pay attention to anything that you're doing. I mean, unless you actually have a final decision, saying, well, when push comes to shove, at the final end, when we think that you're about six months away from reaching nuclear weapons, then we will take military action. We will break away from the United Nations, and we'll just go ahead and unilaterally take military action.

CONAN: And I don't mean to cut you off, Clark, but we're running out of time. I want to give Danielle a chance to respond to that.

CLARK: Sure.

Ms. PLETKA: Well, the I think that there's no question that the Iranians would view military action as something that they needed to think seriously about. The problem is that the only prospect they see of military action is coming from Israel. I think the United State has made absolutely clear that we have no intention, whether for good reasons or bad, of undertaking a military strike against Iranians' nuclear program. And so I don't think the Iranians take it very seriously, basically, even though no one has wanted to say this explicitly, as far as those numbers on the U.N. Security Council, that's off the table.

CONAN: Danielle Pletka, thanks very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Ms. PLETKA: Thank you.

CONAN: Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. She excuse me she also served for 10 years as a senior professional staff member for the Near East and South Asia on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and with us today from the Studios at AEI here in Washington, D.C.

Coming up, a new IMAX film tells us the story of one of the biggest industrial projects in history: the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Test pilot Mike Carriker took it out on its first flight. He joins us next. Stay with us.

It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

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